Mauer to make debut at first base

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2011 - 11:56 PM

Joe Mauer took grounders at first base during batting practice on June 27.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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After weeks of considering the possibility, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said Joe Mauer will make his debut at first base Thursday -- a move designed to keep Mauer in the lineup while giving him a break from the daily stresses of playing catcher.

If the experiment works, Gardenhire said he could see this being an occasional option.

"We won't really know until we get him over there and see, but honestly he's pretty fluid over there," Gardenhire said of Mauer, who was not in the lineup Wednesday but came in to pinch hit in the ninth and struck out to end the game. "He's got soft hands, he moves around there pretty well, all the fundamental parts."

Mauer last played first 10 years ago, in a handful of Class A games.

"We'll see. ... It'll be something different, but I'm looking forward to playing," he said. "For me, it's going to be a grind the rest of the way, physically. So if this allows me to take a day from behind the plate and give my body a little break, it'll be a good thing."

Baker gets MRI

Scott Baker underwent an MRI on Wednesday afternoon, after leaving Tuesday night's game in the fifth inning because of what Twins trainer Rick McWane termed a right forearm and elbow strain. Baker said he wasn't worried about it. Gardenhire said that they would evaluate the righthander after they get the test results but that he believes the team will shut him down through the All-Star break.

That scenario would leave Sunday's starting spot open -- and Anthony Swarzak as the go-to guy, Gardenhire said.

Swarzak has started three games this year, but none since June 2. He has a 3.94 ERA.

A break for Capps

There wasn't a save situation for Matt Capps on Wednesday, but even if there had been, it's likely someone else would have pitched. Following three consecutive poor outings from the closer, Gardenhire said he planned to give Capps "a little bit of a blow," meaning he would likely rest him a few days.

"I know he's frustrated," Gardenhire said. "Cappy's going to be fine. ... Our big concern is getting him back to feeling good about himself."

Rochester no-hitter

Four Rochester Red Wings pitchers combined on a no-hitter Wednesday night, the first combined no-hitter in the long history of the Twins' Class AAA affiliate.

Starter Jeff Manship pitched four innings, Jake Stevens three, Kyle Waldrop one and Jim Hoey one as the Red Wings beat Lehigh Valley 7-0 in Rochester, N.Y.

The Rochester franchise dates to 1888, and it has had 20 previous no-hitters.

Etc.

• An MRI on Jason Kubel's sprained left foot Tuesday revealed no serious damage, McWane said, only swelling and a bone bruise, but the slugger probably will sit through the All-Star break.

• Kevin Slowey (right shoulder bursitis) and Delmon Young (right ankle sprain) got through Tuesday's games at Rochester just fine, McWane said. Young DH'ed on Wednesday night again, and Slowey -- who threw 56 pitches in 2 2/3 innings in Tuesday's first game -- is scheduled to start Sunday. Gardenhire said the goal is to raise his pitch count 15 or 20 pitches at each outing.

• Denard Span (concussion) says he is feeling good and will travel with the team to Chicago. There is no projected date for his return. Justin Morneau (herniated disk surgery) was in the clubhouse to have stitches removed from his neck.

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